What does the political theology of a Protestant Old Testament scholar have to do with that of a Roman Catholic theologian? At first glance Walter Brueggemann and William Cavanaugh might appear to be strange companions, theologically speaking. Whereas Brueggemann is concerned with understanding the politics of ancient Israel, Cavanaugh is concerned with deconstructing the notion that the contemporary church itself is not a political body. Nevertheless, despite differing fields of research, a profound parallel exists between the two political theologies they espouse.1
One of the primary reasons why Brueggemann's and Cavanaugh's political theologies are similar is because they are both operating with the same understanding of what the task of political theology is. In the Introduction to The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, William Cavanaugh and Peter Scott offer three distinct types of political theology that they discern among the field of scholarship. The first type presumes that theology and politics inhabit two distinct spheres, and thus the task of political theology is to connect the former with the latter while maintaining the proper independence of each.2 The second type maintains that theology serves as a kind of superstructure to the material politicoeconomic base. With this reasoning, the responsibility of political theology becomes one of disclosing the manner in which theology reproduces societal inequalities (e.g., class, gender, race) and then changing those particular aspects of theology so that it does not assist in reinforcing injustice. The third type claims that theology and politics are similar activities in that both are formed in the construction of metaphysical images around which communities are arranged. Implicit within politics is theology, implicit within theology is politics (i.e., particular forms of organization suggested by certain doctrines). The task of political theology is, therefore, to reveal the false theologies that support "secular" politics and thus to endorse the true politics inherent in a true theology.3 It is this third type that characterizes the works of Brueggemann and Cavanaugh and makes them close companions from the beginning. Nevertheless, the resemblance of their political theologies goes further than just their method.
In the following analysis, I will compare Brueggemann's and Cavanaugh's political theologies and use Brueggemann's paradigm of a prophetic imagination as a means of understanding Cavanaugh's theopolitical imagination. I am not interested in an evaluation or critique of either Brueggemann's or Cavanaugh's political theologies per se, but rather to present a descriptive account of Brueggemann that aids in viewing Cavanaugh. Initially I will develop their theologies independently from one another so that their voices may speak without being conflated or construed by the other. First, I will outline Brueggemann's paradigm of a prophetic imagination as found in The Prophetic Imagination. Although one can find aspects of this model in his other works, I will rely primarily on this book because it represents Brueggemann's seminal attempt to communicate this paradigm and it continúes to remain the concrete expression of it. Second, I will then survey Cavanaugh's political theology, using his various works to develop what he terms a theopolitical imagination. Finally, once Brueggemann's and Cavanaugh's respective theses have been presented, I will explicitly note the correlations between their political theologies and demonstrate the natural and illuniinating parallel that exists between Brueggemann's prophetic imagination and Cavanaugh's theopolitical imagination. Whereas Brueggemann is primarily concerned with delineating the characteristics of a prophetic imagination rather than offering concrete contemporary applications, Cavanaugh proposes a theopolitical imagination that is currently a possible manner of …